With its rocky shore line the long and narrow Svinesund makes a natural border to Norway from Sweden. Where the sound is most narrow and the current strongest is the old ferry but. The place radiates irresistible magic.
Long before the time of cars and the high arched bridge horse-drawn vehicles were put on their brakes down the steep slopes, ferried across the narrow sound by the small ferry and toiled up the steep hills on the other side. Horsemen, horses, harnesses and wagons were put to the test. The skill of the ferrymen was also decisive for a successful passage.
Even HBB-paddlers of our days meet the magic in this place. Here they load and launch their kayaks and begin the long tour. And now in year 1999 it was once more time for me. Shortly after midnight between May 15 and 16 I started yet another Sweden-paddling, my third for HBB and my fifth in total - twice while still working with limited spare time I had paddled the coast in stages.
The record holders were still Jan Andersson and Lars Brindt with 32 days. During 1998 I had made three unsuccessful and abandoned attempts to recapture the record. I had now split my distance of 2.252 kilometres from 1996 by 31 days and knew that the requirements were 72.645 kilometres per day to beat the record provided that the distance did not became longer than year 1996. I hade marked my maps where I got to be each day to maintain the speed. As an extra check I had 31 small packages with milk. I should use one per day and if they lasted all the way I would beat the record.
Also this time it did not start all well. While loading the kayak at the beach the day before start I lost balance for a second. My left arm was stretched far into the kayak. The tensed muscle was squeezed between the cockpit frame and my falling body. It hit harder than I first thought.
In the darkness of the night soon after start the pain increased and made normal paddle strokes impossible. By a short paddle dip into the water with a straight left arm and a strong paddle stroke with my right arm and at the same time compensating with the rudder, I covered in 18 hours 88 kilometres the first day. The arm was yellow and blue. The second day I covered 77 kilometres in 16 hours, third day 81 kilometres in 17 hours, forth day 91 kilometres in 19 hours and 20 minutes and had by then reached Hallands VÄderÖ. The arm was now blue and black but the pain was almost gone and I paddled again in a normal way.
By and by I fell into a comfortable trot. Breakfast, lunch, coffee, energy snacks and other rations were had on board, in happy moments in following wind while I was gliding some hundred meters during my break. I ate often but little each time and lost only marginally in weight.
Sometimes, when occasion was given, I squeezed in my kayak into a clump of reeds or put it on a shoal, glided down in the cockpit and laid my head on the packing-bag on the rear deck and slumbered for a while. I enjoyed the clump of reeds especially, hidden from the world around with whispering music from the wowing reeds in light breeze. Not until the time to pitch a camp came I left the cosy comfort in the cockpit.
To paddle the coast in stages, as I have done twice, has no doubt its own special charm, but it is also combined with many transports on land to and from and the fascination is interrupted from time to time. But as said, I was forced and compelled to do so. To on the other hand travel along the entire coast at one sweep, to be out there in the world of the sea in exclusive and luxurious loneliness, and at last sit by the beach at Torne river and look back on a tour that undoubtedly has given increased insight in both nature and own life, That is to me as paddling in a different division.
A Finnish paddler named Petri Sutinen was right now without my knowledge south going along the Norwegian coast. He promptly continued along the Swedish coast with an HBB-paddling that came to be something to speak about.
At day 23 I passed Härnösand. My average was by then 72.478 kilometres. As I had paddled more direct tan 1996 I was still in record speed. Some days with unyielding head wind along northern part of the coast in Norrland unfortunately lowered the average. In Degerfjärden and Nordmalingfjärden I got heavy sea against me. The wind from northwest came at about six and eleven meter per second (Beaufort 4-5). The entire bonus I had made was suddenly gone.
The weather forecast said change of wind from north to south. I pitched my camp at the south side of an island, so that I surely should wake up if the wind really turned. At about 01.00 in the night I heard waves starting to break on the beach and the tent started to flap - the wind had turned. I immediately continued towards north.
The life was nice. The body felt wiry and strong. I paddled somewhat between 16 and 20 hours per twenty-four hours. With my last leg of 99 kilometres I reached on day 30 Virtakari cape at the outlet of Torne river. At 21.00 I placed my hand on top of the landmark 59. The record was beaten by 2 days. I had paddled 2.212 kilometres with a daily average of 73.733 kilometres.
And I had one package of milk left.
My new record became even more short-lived than that I made year 1996. The supreme Petri Sutinen did later the same year note the time 23 days. He paddled 2.119 kilometres with an average of 92.130 kilometres. It felt absolutely right, yes actually as an honours, to hand over the record to Petri - a man in his best age, lover of open-air life since childhood and a paddler who control all techniques within paddling. Besides, a 65–year–old man should not be able to hold a record of the right dignity. The record for Veterans is however still in writing moment mine.
Could Petri's record be beaten? Yes, I believe so. Either by Petri himself or by another paddler who also possesses the special qualities that are required. Here is no sum of money that calls. Here are no special stages, pit stops for food or compulsory breaks for rests. Here demands a paddler with judgment and aptitude to use his physical strength and mental safety-zones to the utmost and still remain within the same. Here demands a paddler that in his loneliness and often along a desolate coast is able to maintain a daily average at 100 kilometres per day after day in windless, fog, rain, sun, high wind waves and darkness.
Is there besides Petri, such a paddler?
Yes, he is out there - somewhere.
However, most of those who paddle HBB have no records in their view. They assimilate in nice experiences that consist of travelling along a rich changing coastal landscape in a simple and uncomplicated craft. They sometimes experience varying sides of their character they didn't know about before. They most certainly get memories they never will forget. And that is of course a record by itself.
(a webmaster translation)